An Open Letter to Dan O’Brien

Dear Mr. O’Brien,

I have recently been informed about your DMCA takedown notice against the Prospero’s Price Kickstarter on the grounds that it infringes your right to market a book bringing together “The Tempest” and H. P. Lovecraft.  It is time to alert you to a serious breach of intellectual property.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is a graphic novel series by the acclaimed author Alan Moore.  I could mention the number of Google hits, the coverage in prominent magazines, the reviews on Goodreads, and the movie adaptation in 2003 that featured Tom Sawyer so that U. S. audiences might be convinced to watch it (unsuccessfully), but really, you have a computer.

Beginning in Volume 2 (published 2002-3), Alan Moore incorporated a number of characters from “The Tempest” and Lovecraft into his series, and he continues to do so.   Out of all the thousands of characters, stories, and plays available from your sources, it can be no coincidence that you have picked characters from Mr. Moore’s work such as Prospero, Ariel, Caliban, Cthulhu, and the Deep Ones.   You must agree that the latter is especially damning, given the lack of fiction written about Cthulhu or the Deep Ones.

Having brought this to your attention, I have no doubt that you will remove your book from circulation in accord with international copyright law.

Sincerely,

Daniel Harms

P. S.  I do have to thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I am preparing for publication a book from 1580 featuring Oberion, King of the Fairies.  Upon researching your case, it has come to my attention that this “Shakespeare” character later published a play that incorporates one Oberon as King of the Fairies.  Rest assured that I will not rest until this scoundrel is forced to remove all of his infringing work from the Internet.

Published in: on March 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm  Comments (3)  

Review – Hex Signs: Myth and Meaning in Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Stars

A few weeks ago, I spent an oft-delayed yet pleasant afternoon and evening with Patrick Donmoyer.  Patrick is the site manager of Kutztown University’s Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, not to mention the translator of The Friend in Need, another charm book by Hohman which I’ve reviewed previously.  We spent most of our time viewing multiple impressive collections of magical books, talismans, and other magical items.  Before I left, I picked up the second book in the Center’s new series – Donmoyer’s own Hex Signs.

From time to time, I’m asked if The Long-Lost Friend has anything to do with hex signs, those beautiful star and flower figures that decorate the barns across much of eastern Pennsylvania and adjacent areas where German settlers made their homes.  The answer is, “Not really,” with a follow-up about the possibility of a mystical link that might or might not be present.  Hex Signs provides us with answers to these questions, and much more.

So, were hex signs intended to protect the barn magically, or were they decorations?  Donmoyer’s answer is that these have no apotropaic sorcerous qualities, as far as it relates to history.  The belief seems to come down to one researcher’s interview with a single unspecified Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, which no one since has been able to duplicate, and the term “hex signs” seems to have been a creation for outsiders.  Donmoyer goes on to document the progression of these symbols from stone keystones found in the sides of early barns, along with their parallels to barn decoration in the Old World, and the many variations of patterns throughout the region.

At the same time, however, hex signs are not merely decorative elements.  Within their bright colors and eye-catching whorls and points are elements of celestial and numerological significance.  Similar motifs turn up on decorations elsewhere, indicating that these symbols are expressions of important cosmological and spiritual practices among the Pennsylvania German.
Those interested in the occult are also in luck.  Even if magic cannot be found in the hex signs on the barn, it may yet lurk inside.  Within are walls covered with graffiti, including magical phrases on the walls, talismans tucked within the rafters, and drawings of the Elbedritsch, a mythical horned bird.  We are treated not only to descriptions, but pictures of these discoveries.

Finally, the book discusses those artists who have brought the hex sign into the present and seek to preserve these creations that tell so much about Pennsylvania history.  This is where magic re-enters, as the popular discourse about signs has had its effect on the attitudes and practices of those who design them today.

All of this is richly illustrated with copious photographs that highlight the author’s arguments.  In fact, my only criticism is that the book might be better served in a large coffee table format, which would allow us to view the signs on a larger scale.

Hex Signs is available through the Heritage Center, and is certainly worth it for those interested in folk art, folklore, or folk magic.

 

Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 10:09 am  Comments (3)  

Double Kickstarters

Somehow I’ve managed to get myself entangled in not one but two Kickstarters at once.  Both have already reached the initial funding goal, so if you jump on board, you’ll be getting something neat and adding to everyone else’s neat stuff.

First, the Call of Cthulhu book Tales from the Crescent City features my adventure “Needles,” in which your investigators take on a New Orleans legend and uncover the terrifying truth behind them.  At the Algiers level, you’ll get that scenario, plus another five by some great authors, including a rewritten version of Kevin Ross’ classic “Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?” and his all-new sequel, in both print and PDF.  Tales also has  a New Orleans neighborhood guide written by locals, a two-page Roaring Twenties map of the city,  and a writeup of HPL’s mystic Etienne-Laurent de Marigny, in both print and PDF.  The next stretch goal is the book’s seventh scenario.

On top of that, you’ll get a Mythos scenario in PDF format, another four scenarios based upon New Orleans folklore (and more with more stretch goals) in PDF, and a set of Mardi Gras beads.  I told Oscar Rios of Golden Goblin Press to charge you more than $35 for all this, but he didn’t listen.

Second is the fiction anthology Delta Green:  Tales from Failed Anatomies, a collection of stories of paranormal investigation and creeping horror by Dennis Detwiller.   More stories are being written as stretch goals by Kenneth Hite, Adam Scott Glancy, Cody Goodfellow, and Greg Stolze.  When the campaign reaches $10,000 (it’s at $8700 right now), I’ll write a Delta Green short story called “Dark,” set during the NYC blackout of 1977.   Maybe I’ll weave in something else that was going on in the Big Apple at that time.

For $15, you’ll get the e-book, plus all of the stretch goal stories, plus a coupon to buy a paperback of Detwiller’s book for about $10 or hardback for $25, plus a coupon to buy my story and the others in a book for another $10 if we reach enough goals to fill it.  (They’re giving out the coupons for purchase later in order to speed up delivery.)  For another $15, you can be an alpha tester for the new Delta Green RPG as well.

In either case, you’re getting a lot of quality material for not too much from companies with good track records.  Donate a little so you can read something great.

Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  

A Happy 2014 Update

It’s really cold up here, so some shovelling of snow is in order.  Apparently someone liberated my snow shovel in the past few days, so I went out to get one of those orange colossal ones that can cut through a mountain.

  • The notes for the Book of Oberon have returned, so the team is working our way through them.   For my part, I’m tackling the introduction, which was written in a much more technical style near the beginning of the project and now needs to be more friendly as well as rigorous.  (I don’t think we often have to choose between the two, although how is sometimes difficult to determine.)
  • The Boston book goes along very slowly.  I’ve got some more sources to consult, once I brave the cold once more.
  • I’ve been working with Steven Kaye on two more articles on the worship of various Mythos entities.  Some of you may remember the one on “The Worship of Tsathoggua through the Ages” in Worlds of Cthulhu.  These will be hitting some more prominent gods/aliens/monsters/folks.
  • Delta Green game:  Agents were sent to Alaska as Secret Service, and ended up hunting (and being hunted by) hairy hominids out in the middle of the wilderness.   Now one of them has a hominid head in his freezer, and another has a tracking device once implanted into these creatures.  I’m still working on the next game.
  • Yig is fine.  Some people want me to blog more about Yig, but really, she’s a snake.  She crawls around her cage and sticks her head out of her caves to look for food, which she is rather unsuccessful at obtaining.  I know it’s a matter of heat, but sometimes I look at this snake dropping her food into the water dish (which takes some effort, given that it has two-inch sides) and wonder how this species survived for millions of years.

I hope wherever you are is warmer than here.

Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Review: Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels

We’ve been over the Doctor Rudd ground in this blog so many times it feels as if we practically should be sending the guy Christmas cards.  (You can see some of the discussion here and here, as well as followups here and here, along with material in Egil Asprem’s Arguing with Angels on the same topic.)  Briefly put, the theory is that Thomas Rudd, an engineer who published John Dee’s Mathematical Preface to Euclid, was a ceremonial magician whose manuscripts were later copied by Peter Smart and attributed to “Dr. Rudd”.  The objection has been raised that there’s little evidence that Thomas and Doctor Rudd are the same, and that Peter Smart used that name in his manuscripts to disguise the fact he was copying material from printed sources.

A new perspective can be found in Teitan Press’ latest printing of a manuscript from the nineteenth-century accountant and crystal magic practitioner Frederick Hockley, Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hierarchies of Angels.  The text itself is of interest to the history of nineteenth century occultism, as it most likely constitutes another work transcribed at the shop of John Denley.  The book consists of three major texts:  an edition of the Nine Hierarchies of Angels attributed to Rudd, the Enochian Keys in English, and a procedure ultimately derived from Sloane 307 to call Enochian spirits to find treasure and perform other tasks, including the table of the elements, available in both transcription and facsimile.  Each of these is available though previously-published sources that publish earlier material that is more extensive in content, such as Adam MacLean’s A Treatise on Angel Magic and some of the Golden Hoard works.

What really made the book for me, however, was Alan Thorogood’s comprehensive introduction.  Alan makes three major points here.  First, the Enochian works of John Dee, whether in manuscript form or taken from Casaubon’s True and Faithfull Relation, were more influential than had previously been thought, with traces found even in the published versions of the Lemegeton and the 1665 edition of Discoverie of Witchcraft. Second, he makes the argument that the Janua magica reserata, a set of magical operations dedicated to summoning representatives of the angelic hierarchy, were derived from Enochian material.

Third, he gives further evidence why Peter Smart is not to be trusted in attributing particular works to Rudd – while, at the same time, he puts forth an argument for a new candidate.  Sloane Manuscripts 3624 to 3628 describe a series of late seventeenth-century operations performed by a trio of men – including one “J. Rudd” – to call up spirits using both the hierarchy of angels and Dee’s operations.  If this is the case, it might give us a better candidate that Smart appropriated to justify his own dishonesty.

If you’re picking this up for the text, it’s best to do so as a Hockley collector, someone interested in what was available in the field of ceremonial magic for the nineteenth century, or a completist in the field of grimoire literature.  The introduction, however, should be required reading for anyone studying the history of the grimoire tradition for any reason.

Published in: on November 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm  Comments (1)  

Forthcoming from Avalonia: The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius

Avalonia Books has now opened pre-orders for The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius:

The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius contains material translated from all four of the different French editions of the Grimoire of Pope Honorius, including the complete text of one manuscript version never before seen in English (Wellcome 4666), and a new translation of the later corrupted German version of 1845. All of the material and its variations found in the five different editions of the Grimoire of Pope Honorius is contained in this work, presenting the entire corpus of this grimoire in print for the first time.  In addition to tracing much of the material to sources such as the Heptameron, the works of Agrippa and earlier religious texts for the first time, the derivation of much of the material into later grimoires including the Grimorium Verum, the Grand Grimoire/Red Dragon and the Black Dragon is clearly demonstrated.

For those who are wondering, the Trident Books edition included only the German text.  The only other English partial translations I can recall are the material in Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic and Caduceus Book’s Magic Secrets of Guidon.  I can say, given the amount of wear the previous Avalonia release of Arthur Gauntlet received, I’ll be ordering the hardcover of this one.

Published in: on August 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Podcast and an Appearance

If you can make it to the Starwood Festival in Ohio this week, I’ll be spending my time there.  I’ll be giving two talks – one on Lovecraft on Wednesday, and another on The Long-Lost Friend on Saturday.   I haven’t been to Starwood for over ten years, and it’ll be good to get back to the general insanity.

If you can’t make it to Starwood, or even if you can, you can check out a recorded version of my talk at Treadwell’s last month on the Internet Archive.  I’m going on for a while about the Folger manuscript, fairies, and other fun topics.  Many thanks go to both Treadwell’s and to Steve Dempsey, who did the heavy lifting on the sound editing.

Published in: on July 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Faerie Queens Anthology – Now Open for Pre-Orders

Avalonia‘s new anthology The Faerie Queens will be published in a few weeks.  It includes my essay, “Spirits at the Table – Faerie Queens in the Grimoires.”   If you’re interested in any aspect of ceremonial magic – even those that have nothing to do with fairies – I am certain you will find that piece alone worth the price of admission.  It takes various phenomena that were previously considered “anomalous” and shows how they in fact display another hitherto little-noticed side of European magical practice.

On top of that, we’ve got an assemblage of fairy spells put together by David Rankine, and two dozen pieces on fairy traditions from across Europe.  If that’s not enough, Avalonia’s pre-orders are usually shipped free of charge, which is a definite boon for any readers from the States.   Put in your order today!

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Warlock Asylum’s Animated Tale of Dan Harms

A great deal has been going on lately, with a trip to England and back, a lecture at Treadwell’s, and all sorts of other matters.  On top of that, Warlock Asylum has made an animated short about my life.   We can safely call it a loose adaptation, as I’ve never really dressed up like a ninja and dissolved a tea-drinking vampire dressed as Frankenstein’s Monster with rain.

I’ll have a review, a trip report, and other updates later.

Published in: on May 28, 2013 at 11:25 pm  Comments (4)  

Reviews – The Spellbook of Marie Laveau: The Petit Albert, A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau

I got back last week from a trip to the grimoires conference that also took me through Austin and New Orleans.  At the latter, I picked up a copy of Carolyn Long’s biography A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau.  That reminded me that I hadn’t finished reading The Spellbook of Marie Laveau: The Petit Albert recently released by Hadean Press, so I finished up both.

When the Spellbook was announced, I was skeptical of the claims that this book had any real ties to Marie Laveau.  Having read it now, I can say that was completely justified.  It is true that the Petit Albert has turned up in discussions of the New Orleans occult scene, but the book provides little proof of any connection to Marie Laveau or New Orleans Voudou.  (If it’s any indication of the attitude in the Crescent City itself, I didn’t see a single copy of this book anywhere, from the Librairie to Esoterica to the Voodoo Spiritual Temple.)  Sadly, the title likely tells us more about the current growth of interest in Afro-Caribbean faiths and its effects on marketing spiritual goods than the book’s history or influence.

Nonetheless, this should not distract us from the most influential and reprinted manual of magic in the French-speaking world.  Likely titled itself to capitalize on the Liber aggregationis, or Book of Secrets attributed to the thirteenth century magician Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great), the Petit Albert (“Little Albert”) is a compilation of short recipes intended to create love, heal various ills, turn lead into gold, gain success in both hunting and the household, and a wide variety of other purposes.  The formulae tend toward natural magic, in which various substances are collected and used without a ritual component.  Nonetheless, we also have a lengthy section on planetary talismans attributed to Paracelsus, and a few items for resisting torture, forging a ring of invisibility, and, most famous of the book’s procedures, creating the Hand of Glory.

Potential buyers should be aware of two caveats.  First, the book features only a few notes and no index, so those who like such critical apparati will be disappointed.  Second, if you see this in a bookstore, you might want to check the binding before purchasing; my copy was separating from the spine when I bought it.  Nonetheless, if you want an English translation of a famous book of magic, this is it.

On the other hand, I can recommend Long’s biography of Marie Laveau without reservation.  Laveau has been a figure of mystery and legend for over a century, portrayed in various manners in folklore, fiction, music, and all manner of other media.  Long returns to the original sources on the woman:  newspaper accounts, deeds, legal documents, parish registers, and first-hand accounts collected by Works Progress Administration interviewers in the Thirties.  Although some of these records have been unavailable to previous authors, she nonetheless notes that others chose to ignore them.  When these records fall short, the book gives us lengthy sections on the history of New Orleans itself and Laveau’s folkloric and literary legacy.

What emerges from these documents is a figure who both falls short of the legend but nonetheless is fascinating in her own right.  For example, we learn that Marie Laveau was neither as wealthy or influential as believed, and that instead of freeing slaves, she herself owned them.  The question of her successor, ‘Marie Laveau II,’ also is raised; although Long does not come out and make an argument for it, it appears that her daughter did employ that name, although she rejected much of her mother’s spirituality.  Nonetheless, the book does confirm the most basic facts:  Laveau was a prominent woman who was a vital spiritual influence in the city and was known for helping the less fortunate.  If you are intrigued by Marie Laveau at all, I would recommend this book highly; once I started it, I could barely put it down.

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm  Comments (5)  
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